Breaking down 2021 NFL Draft prospect Trevor Lawrence’s 2019 interceptions.
The quarterback position is often the position that most analysts love to scout. It’s also arguably the most difficult. So many factors go into producing a franchise quarterback at the next level, and it’s difficult for teams to find that franchise signal-caller. Everyone believes there are elite players at the top every year, but they don’t always pan out. The same will surely happen in the 2021 NFL Draft as well.
Right now, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence sits atop the quarterback rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s easy to see why, as there isn’t a throw on the field he can’t make. He’s athletic, has a good arm, and shows phenomenal placement on throws all over his 2019 tape.
However, Lawrence isn’t without some criticism. One of the more interesting things to look back at on tape are interceptions. Providing context to interceptions is an important part of scouting quarterbacks, because all interceptions aren’t created equal. Some picks are drops, some get deflected, some are bad decisions, and others are the result of poor accuracy.
Lawrence had a difficult start to his 2019 season, throwing five interceptions in his first three games and eight in his first seven games. He went on a tear after that point, a 20:0 TD-to-INT ratio, but it’s crucial to back and see what contributed to a slower start.
Here, we are doing just that, going pick by pick (I could not find the Florida State game anywhere, so we will have to settle for seven of the eight) to determine what the causes were. Let’s dive right in to analyze the picks, and what he can do to improve as we get closer to the season and the 2021 NFL Draft.
This first one is against Texas A&M, one of the tougher opponents Lawrence faced all year long. To provide some context, Clemson was leading 24-3 late in the game. It’s not upsetting that Lawrence took a shot down the field with virtually no ramifications, but the pass was well underthrown. Deep accuracy is something that Lawrence struggles with at times, so this will be something to monitor heading in to the 2020 season.
Moving on to the second interception, we look at Lawrence against Syracuse. This one is pretty straightforward. A lot of young quarterbacks often stick on to their first read, and Lawrence was no different on the rep. He stared his first read down and made the throw anyway, leading to a tipped pass and an interception.
Reasoning: Decision Making
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Lawrence’s second interception against Syracuse is a bit more complicated. It looked like a designed roll out from the start, with two receivers crossing into deep hitch routes. After many viewings, one thing seems clear: Lawrence did in fact see the underneath defender, but tried to manipulate him into believing he was throwing to the outer receiver. Instead, Lawrence is the one who’s tricked, and he throws a bad interception.
Reasoning: Decision Making
Switching over to Georgia Tech now, this interception has a little decision making and accuracy mixed in. Clemson loves running quick outs in their passing game, so much so that it’s surprising teams didn’t key in on it more as the season went on.
Georgia Tech came out ready for it, and the corner jumped the route with ease. Could the ball have been placed a little better towards the sideline? Absolutely. However, put this one down as a great play by the defense. Also, it’s noteworthy to see Lawrence chase him down and prevent a pick-six.
Reasoning: Decision Making (But weighted less, a great defensive play)
It’s hard to know where to start with this one. His second pick against the Yellow Jackets came right at the end of the first half, on the last play to be more specific. Lawrence didn’t see anything initially, so he bolted from the pocket and was able to avoid a defender in the process.
However, once he broke the tackle, he doesn’t set himself or take a good look at what’s in front of him. He just unloaded the ball on the run, and it’s nowhere near any receiver. He’s taking a chance at the end of the half, but this one transcended reason a bit.
Reasoning: Gunslinger Mentality
We now turn the page to Lawrence’s Louisville interceptions. First up is this one near the red zone. Lawrence decided to take a shot to the end zone. It’s hard to believe that Lawrence wouldn’t see the safety roaming over the top, so he had to believe he could get it over the safety’s head for the touchdown. Instead, it’s not a difficult interception.
Reasoning: Decision Making
This final one is more complicated. Here, Lawrence is looking for another deep shot down the field, but his target gets tripped up with incidental contact, and it ends up in a defender’s hand. It’s tough to tell if this was Tee Higgins or Justyn Ross, but either way, he placed it up for whoever to make a contested catch. The throw does float at the tail end, so it’s entirely possible that this is picked off either way. There are just so many variables to make a clear distinction.
Reasoning: Unclear (Leaning towards accuracy)
After tallying the reasoning, it’s clear that decision making is the more common reason for Trevor Lawrence’s interceptions. For those who have studied his game closely, it makes sense. While there is no true glaring weakness, the closest thing is Lawrence’s “Favre mentality”. He presses a bit and has the confidence to make any play because of how excellent his placement is at times. Because of that, he often searches for the big play and doesn’t take what the defense gives him.
Decision making will be important for Trevor Lawrence to improve on during the 2020 season to prep for the 2021 NFL Draft. If Lawrence can continue to move off the first read a bit more and not take too many chances, his 2020 season could be another special one.